Ushuaia: The Southernmost City in the World
I had expected Ushuaia to be an isolated gem hidden away at the very southern tip of Argentina, and felt intrepid at the thought of making my way to the southernmost city in the world. Unfortunately, thousands of others thought the same thing, making Ushuaia less of a remote gem and more of a tourist hotspot full of souvenir shops and expensive restaurants.
The sun was shining and the sky was blue as Adam and I walked along the main street, past shops displaying t-shirts, key rings and mate cups, each of them emblazoned with “Ushuaia: the southernmost city in the world”. Countless agencies flaunted Antarctica cruises that were far beyond the reach of our budget, and almost every window seemed to contain penguin pictures, figures and fluffy toys. We headed towards the harbour, stopping to get our passports stamped at the tourist office, after all, as we were constantly reminded, it was the southernmost city in the world. We walked along the water’s edge, taking photographs of the surrounding mountains, then paid a visit to the Yamana museum.
The museum told the history of the Yamana, a fascinating tribe that once inhabited the island of Tierra del Fuego. They travelled in canoes, eating mostly seals and mussels, and, despite the freezing climate here at the end of the world, they spent their time completely naked. The displays explained that it was too difficult to keep clothes dry, so instead they kept warm by keeping fires lit in their canoes. The photographs of the tribe showed their wrinkled knees and odd posture, as they spent most of their time in a squatting position. The photographs were also a reminder of how recently the tribe existed, continuing their lifestyle into the early 20th century. The last exhibit showed the sad end to the Yamana way of life, how the area was colonised by Europeans, killing the tribe members through the spread of disease, or, some claim, intentional poisoning. The final display put this near-extinction in the broader context of colonisation as a whole, and how the “discovery” of the Americas was no more than widespread massacres and theft of land and resources. It was a sobering thought here in a place that now seemed to be a mere tourist attraction.
The next day we left our hostel to find the city in celebration. A parade containing vintage cars, gauchos on horseback, and a marching band filled the street. Along the shore were gatherings of police and soldiers, and a small crowd watching a young dance group. We asked a spectator about the festival and were told it was the city’s anniversary. We climbed a long staircase to get a view over the city, taking in the parade, harbour and surrounding mountains. It was nice to see a different side to city, away from the tacky storefronts.
We of course had one last very important mission in the southernmost city in the world- to drink at the southernmost Irish bar. We stopped for a pint in Dublin bar, only to realise Bar Ideál (formerly Galway Pub) had beaten it to the title by only half a block. So we gave that a visit too, and lifted our glasses in a toast to our southernmost drink, in the southernmost Irish bar, in the southernmost city in the world.